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Mike Papi came to Virginia with a great baseball pedigree. His father was a college pitcher at East Stroudsburg University; one of his brothers also was a college pitcher. The freshman right fielder already has shown that he is one of the elite freshmen in college baseball this year. He has started all but one of the Cavaliers’ games and boasts a .338 batting average and a team-high seven doubles. He sat down recently to discuss the start to his college career as well as a wide array of topics for the latest installment of Rounding the Bases.

Talk about your freshman year and its ups and downs thus far.
There have been some ups and downs. I came in here really not expecting anything and just expecting it to be hard. The fall was good. Our Iron Cavalier Challenge was pretty crazy. I was pretty shocked by that. So in the spring, playing baseball is fun, definitely a new experience. It’s a lot faster pace of a game, a lot of change. But I love it and I wouldn’t be asking for anything else.

Talk about playing baseball year round now in college.
It’s always been my dream to play baseball year round so I’m pretty happy with that.

Why did you pick UVa?
Just because of it overall – the academics, baseball and the coaches. The coaches were really nice in the recruiting process and I really liked the campus. It wasn’t in the city and I wanted somewhere that had trees and was really laid back.

Talk about your father playing baseball. Has he been a big influence for you?
He played at East Stroudsburg. He was a pitcher and my older brother also played in college. He played at Mansfield and was a pitcher as well.

Has your father given you any advice?
I grew up with my dad giving me advice every day of my life-hitting instructions, fielding instructions. I guess he’s just there for support now, just pushing me and cheering me on, which is really nice to have. For most of the home series they come down which is really exciting.

Talk about your interest in collecting baseballs.
If you go to a souvenir store they’ll have baseballs with their team logo on it, so I have balls from pro teams and Triple-A teams and then there are abstract ones like movie characters, Santa Clauses and stuff like that. I was so young when I started it, I don’t even know how it came about. For Christmas, I’ll still get baseballs to put in my collection, so it’s still growing. I have probably close to 150. I get these little plastic cases for them, so I just stack them wherever I can find room. I used to have books on the shelves, but now I have baseballs.

Talk about your older brothers.
I have two older brothers; they’re both police officers. One’s in the Poconos and one works in the township where I live.

You also played basketball in high school. Do you miss it?
Watching basketball, I miss it but when I came here I focused on baseball so I really don’t miss it. It was definitely a big part of my life in high school. I really liked playing it.

And you were pretty good at it too. Talk about your accomplishments in basketball.
I had the highest free throw percentage and the most threes my senior year. I guess I did well, but it was just second nature for me. I liked it because it was faster paced. There was always action everywhere. It also kept me in real good shape for baseball. Coming here and doing the Cavalier Challenge, I felt like that got me through it a little bit, playing basketball. Staying in shape was a big part of it.

Does anything that you learned playing basketball translate to baseball?
Probably more of the mental side, like working with a team – more things about working with a team than the physical part. They’re completely different games.

Do you know what you want to do here in terms of academics?
I’m trying to get into the business school but I don’t know how that’s going to work out. It’s pretty prestigious and hard to get into. Another route would probably be economics.

Tell us something about yourself that people wouldn’t know.
Since I was really little I’ve had a towel that had my name on it. It used to be a bath towel but now I carry it around in my baseball bag. So I guess it’s kind of a superstitious thing.

Chicken Alfredo
Spot on Grounds: The baseball field
Baseball moment: Pitching a no-hitter in the state semi-finals my senior year to get into the state championship game.
Class: Economics
Music: Country or rock
Pro Sports Team: The Eagles and the Yankees.
Movie: The Natural
TV Show: Las Vegas

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